The team: The Netherlands famously reached the final in South Africa four years ago, where Nigel de Jong infamously kicked Xabi Alonso in the chest as Spain won the title 1-0 after extra time. That made it three FIFA World Cup final defeats for the Dutch, who always promise much but fail to ultimately deliver. With experienced coach Louis Van Gaal at the helm, the Netherlands cruised through qualifying, winning their group as the second-highest scorers in Europe with 34 goals, just two less than Germany. With a relatively unchanged core squad from the previous tournament, plus the emergence of some promising youngsters, the Netherlands should go far again.
The coach: Louis van Gaal
Louis van Gaal is one of the most successful managers in football, with a CV that boasts league and cup wins in his native Netherlands, Spain and Germany. The former Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach is famous for his attacking style of play, and combustible personality. He will step down at the end of the World Cup to join Manchester United, so will want to end on a high with the national team.
Key player: Robin van Persie
Although his form suffered last season as Manchester United struggled, Robin van Persie is still a goal scoring force given half a chance. With such a creative midfield behind him, he’ll likely be hovering near the top of the goal scoring charts in Brazil.
World ranking: 15
World Cup appearances: 9
Previous best: Runners-up in 1974, 1980 and 2010
Qualification: Winner of group
Form (qualifiers): WWWWWWDWWW
Fixtures: June 13 vs. Spain; June 18 vs. Australia; June 23 vs. Chile